Home > American King (New Camelot Trilogy #3)(8)

American King (New Camelot Trilogy #3)(8)
Author: Sierra Simone

He takes his leave, and I take a breath.

You will never stop having faith in the people around you, even when they hurt you over and over again.

It feels like a curse.

I grab my jacket and follow him downstairs.

 

 

Four

 

 

Ash

 

 

now


The staff meeting is hard. I knew it would be, and yet sitting in that chair and looking at the faces of my friends and allies—Kay, Trieste, Uri, with Belvedere just outside the door, and Luc and Lamar outside the windows standing guard, and Merlin looking on—it all serves to underscore exactly who isn’t here.

My prince.

It was always something I’d shared with him, this pipe dream of running for President. Most candidates pick a VP to satisfy the base or win over the moderates or some combination of the two. But not me. From the very beginning, I made it clear that I wasn’t taking a single step forward without Embry by my side. I was with Jenny then, so there wasn’t…there couldn’t be what we used to have. But I needed him all the same. He was my brother in arms, my former lover, my best friend. He’d grown up in politics, his mother was a powerful governor, he understood the strategies of schmoozing and courting better than I did.

And I needed him. I just—I just needed him.

And now he’s not here.

Kay accepts the position I offer, so does Trieste. Uri declines, more comfortable with screens and paper than being grilled by reporters, and we talk over our approach for finding a new press secretary. Kay and Trieste immediately plan to interface with Embry’s office to see if they can get a copy of his statement before it’s released, we hammer out a media strategy for his departure, and we agree to keep the gala speech free of any mention of it, although Embry’s resignation will dominate the news cycle. Probably for the next month. We won’t try to sidestep the narratives and we also won’t assign blame. I can see this approach chafes at Trieste, who’d rather try to control the story from the beginning, but it’s not how I run my administration. Embry and the press can say whatever they want—we’ll stick to honesty, restraint, and dignity.

“We need to think about the next election,” Kay says crisply, making a few notes on her tablet. The sunlight pouring through the windows from the Rose Garden strikes deep bronze notes in her black skin and outlines every natural curl corkscrewing from her head. Her suit is tailored to perfection, every sharp line echoing her high cheekbones and delicate jaw. For a moment, I think of the girl I grew up with, the one with the blue yarn braids and the baggy jeans. The older sister who defended me from every bully, every raised eyebrow at the adopted white boy, every busybody mother at Mass who wanted to make sure Althea was teaching me my rosaries and chaplets. And I’m overcome with profound gratitude and debt. For her undeserved affection and loyalty. For her drive and intellect and untiring work.

I stand up and give her a hug, interrupting the flow of the meeting. I don’t care. Everything is falling apart, but Kay has been here for me since I was four years old and I need to hug her. Everyone stops what they’re doing to stare.

“Thank you,” I tell Kay. “You’re my favorite sister.”

“I’m your only sister,” she says dryly as I pull away from the hug.

I’m about to tell her that’s not technically the truth when there’s a knock at the door. I straighten up as Belvedere pokes his head inside, looking abashed.

“I’m sorry sir, but it’s the Vice President on the line. He’s asked to speak with you.”

Something twists inside my chest. Excitement or pain, I don’t know.

“To formally tender his resignation, I imagine,” Merlin says, standing up. “Let’s give the President the room.”

My staff bustles up to leave, Kay giving my hand a quick squeeze and Merlin sending me an inscrutable look. Then I’m alone in the Oval Office with a ringing phone.

My hand shakes as I pick it up.

“Colchester.”

“You know it’s me,” comes Embry’s irritated voice. I soak up every sharp consonant, every drawling vowel. It’s only been twelve hours and yet I miss him with the whining pangs of a starving dog.

Embry goes on. “Answer the phone like an actual human.”

“Come over here and I’ll talk to you like a man.”

Embry laughs and as always, the sound unlocks every door to my heart. He and Greer, they laugh so much, and the sound of it is like joy itself. “Ash, we both know what would happen if I was in that office alone with you.”

“And what would that be?”

“We’d fight. You’d ask me not to leave. I’d tell you I had no choice. We’d find new ways to hurt each other. It wouldn’t be pretty.”

“But finding new ways to hurt you is always so pretty to me, little prince.”

A short inhale is my only answer. I picture those ice blue eyes going hooded with desire, those firm lips pouting ever so slightly with need.

I sit down behind my desk, running a palm along the smooth wood as if it were my lover’s back. “Let me tell you exactly what would happen if you were here. You’d walk in here and try to stay standing, because you would think it put us on equal footing. Because you wouldn’t allow yourself to relax around me. And I’d let you stand, because it wouldn’t matter.”

“It wouldn’t?”

“Do I have any less power when I’m sitting than when I’m standing? Am I a different man?”

“It wouldn’t be about you,” Embry says impatiently. “The standing would be for me. To demonstrate that we are different now, that I am different.”

“But you’re not, my Patroclus. How many times have you been ready to fight me, ready to struggle and bruise to prove to yourself that you don’t want me, only to end up begging for my cock?”

“And you think that’s what would happen this time?”

“I know it’s what would happen,” I say in a low voice. My cock lengthens down the leg of my pants as I imagine it. “I’d let you stand long enough to prove my point, that I still own you, sitting or standing, and then I’d make you get on your knees and apologize to me for breaking my heart.”

Embry’s voice is silky when he responds. “Apologize how?”

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